Every year around this time, we find numerous write-ups and discussions in the media, symposiums and talks in educational institutions, and musical/cultural events revolving around what has now become an extremely symbolic ‘Women’s day’! Why….even retailers and restaurateurs have jumped into the bandwagon and are offering ‘women only’ offers and happy hours!
While celebrating our differences from men on one hand, and striving for gender equality on the other, as a way forward, it is but most important to break free from gender stereotypes, gendered perceptions and gender based double standards. Why is it that no matter how successful a woman is in her professional capacity, she is still judged on the basis of how much of ‘nurturer’ she is towards her family? Why is it that a woman is expected to be a superwoman when men will be men? Why should it matter as to whether it’s a man or a woman who is driving the vehicle ahead of you? Why is it that no matter how brilliant a girl has been as a student, she is more often than not, expected to stick to a family-friendly 9 to 5 job ? Apart from certain intrinsic differences between men and women…it’s all about individual choice and freedom, isn’t it …and what’s gender got to do with it?
As parents, we owe our children the responsibility to see to it that they neither perpetuate nor feel fettered by gender barriers so as to achieve a more egalitarian society that we are all hoping for. On the occasion of Women’s day, we picked up “Big Hero size zero” a thought provoking book by Anusha Hariharan and Sowmya Rajendran brought out by Tulika publications that seeks to shatter the societal and cultural shackles associated with gender.
With its main focus on gender talk, this book also addresses various issues faced by adolescents relating to identity, peer pressure and feelings of alienation and rebellion against family, etc. Meant for the teenage drama kings and queens aged thirteen and above, this work of non-fiction comprehensively deals with the role of gender vis-à-vis family, society, appearances, attraction, violence and finally how each one of us deals with gender, which is nothing but an identity assigned to us by society as opposed to sex which is an identity determined at birth.
The authors attempt at challenging labels that the society in general ascribes to how a man and a woman ought to be, including our own biases that we never knew existed or even every-day language that reveals gender biased phrases. This book flows like a candid conversation on gender issues, including the tabooed transgender and same sex relationships that are often caricatured in the mainstream culture.
“What’s the point in earning if she can’t cook for her husband?” or “Scantily dressed women should expected to be raped” or “A bold and aggressive woman is not marriage material” are some of the comments that are often bandied around as if they represent solemn truths and this book is a bold endeavour to question such prejudices. With a breezy yet powerful narrative, frequent references to popular culture and accompanied by illustrations that parody gender stereotypes within the family and society, this book raises important questions, busts long held myths and confronts many truths and untruths that makes the young reader think and reflect on whether it’s really a boy-girl thing!